2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo. Click image to enlarge

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Buyer’s Guide: 2010 BMW 5 Series

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2010 BMW 5 Series GT

It’s generally accepted these days that a “crossover” is a vehicle that straddles the line between sedan and sport-utility. BMW now takes it a step beyond with its all-new Gran Turismo. It’s badged as a 5 Series, but is based on the 7 Series chassis; throw in some X6 touches, stir it all together, and you’ve got a model that generally defies a simple description.

The Gran Turismo, or GT, comes in a single trim line, dubbed the 550i. That’s confusing, because the 550i sedan uses a naturally-aspirated 4.8-litre V8, making 360 units of horsepower and torque alike. Instead, the GT’s 4.8-litre tucks in the twin turbochargers from the 750i and X6 xDrive50i, producing 400 horses and 450 lb-ft of torque. That helps keep the forward oomph at an impressive level, given that the GT outweighs the 550i sedan by a whopping 440 kg, for a total curb weight of 2,240 kg (4,938 lbs).

Still, while it shares that engine with the 750i and X6, it bolts up against a smooth eight-speed automatic as the sole transmission choice. Otherwise, you have to move up to the V12-powered 760Li before you see one of those.

Although it isn’t a hybrid, the 550i GT uses a form of regenerative braking, charging the battery only when the vehicle is braking, coasting or decelerating, for a slight improvement in fuel efficiency. A gauge somewhat reminiscent of that found on the X6 ActiveHybrid indicates when this is happening. On the styling side, the GT features frameless doors, not otherwise found on four-door models sold on this side of the pond.

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo. Click image to enlarge

But that’s all the stuff you notice long after your first impression, because the first place your eyes land is on the GT’s rump. It has a silhouette similar to that of the X6 (but better-looking, although it’s still not handsome at the rear) with an unusual liftgate system that can be opened two different ways. The company says it isn’t meant to replace the 5 Series Touring wagon – a model that isn’t currently planned for the redesigned 5 Series lineup – but to offer buyers an additional choice for cargo flexibility.

BMW officially lists the GT with a starting price of $79,600, but that’s misleading, since you can only order it with a mandatory “option” of an Executive Package that adds $4,000, for a true price of $83,600. The package adds a rearview camera, electric side sunshades, ventilated active front seats, heated rear seats, head-up display and Sirius satellite radio. All those are nice additions, but I’m not impressed with the way the company sets up the base pricing charts here.

Performance-wise, the GT is definitely a pleasure to drive, especially if you’ve got a long stretch of empty highway ahead of you, but the razor-sharp performance that makes standouts of models like the 3 and 5 Series sedans is absent here. Buy this as a plush limo and you’ll be happy; expect the full sports-sedan experience, and you might not be as satisfied. It always feels like you’re talking to the car through a translator – in this case, its myriad assortment of electronic assists and drive-by-wire features. Press the accelerator, and you can count half a beat between the time your foot goes down and the car actually takes off, especially if you’re in “Normal” mode (there’s also Sport and Sport Plus).

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo. Click image to enlarge

My car was equipped with Active Steering, a $1,900 option, which uses gears and an electric motor to adjust steering angle, depending on the vehicle’s speed. It’s a great system, reducing the number of turns needed to get through parking lots at low speed while providing greater precision at higher speeds. I’ve driven 5 Series models with and without it, and didn’t find that it adversely affected my conversation with the front wheels, so I’m guessing that the GT’s softer, gentler feel is probably the result of tuning more for 7 Series-luxury than 5 Series-style gusto. That said, there is a Dynamic Handling Package available, which adds electronic damper control and adaptive suspension.

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